We return from our brief sojourn into Canada tonight for the final northwest show of the tour, a college show in Seattle, Washington. Solid renditions of “Llama” and “It’s Ice” open the show. The underwater segment of “Ice” is slightly extended from 5:00-6:20 so the band can add extra ambience. The tape I’m listening to (from the Holy Spreadsheet) mysteriously cuts briefly during the beginning of an otherwise pleasant “Fee.” There’s a good solo from Page in “Maze” that is a decent length and features some interesting backing playing from the rest of the band. Trey’s solo is more standard but also has a stronger peak than Page’s. I’m going to have call the “Maze” duel a tie tonight.
A good performance of “Fluffhead” kicks off the back half of the first set and it’s a half that I found to be way more engaging. After “Fluffhead” is a fun interlude of “Paul and Silas,” followed by a big “Stash.” Yeah, that’s right: time for the third “Stash” in four shows. That works for me! “Stash” has quickly become one of the songs I’m most excited to hear, due to the band’s constant experimentation with the song of late. And guess what? The band delivers yet again.
The creativity starts with added dynamism during the final verse. Trey begins to whisper the lyrics, and a sparser instrumentation responds. This makes for a mellow transition into the jam, which is underway at 4:55. Trey starts up a rhythmic groove that the rest of the band locks on to. Volume builds. Page steps up in a big way around 8:00 as he starts pounding on one chord and adding frenzied fills. This creates an anarchic, free-jazz feel. Trey drops out around 9:00, leading Page to calm down his playing and add some melody. Trey slowly works back in and a sparser, but still edgy, groove develops. This builds back into the “Stash” structure at 12:00, and after a few exhilarating runs from Trey the composed ending starts at 12:40.We have heard many excellent “Stash” jams lately, but this one is certainly a contender for best yet. Most of the jam is ‘type-II’ and it moves through distinct and engaging segments.
This marathon length first-set continues with a long narration during “Colonel Forbin’s Ascent.” Trey begins by asking the crowd if they are thirsty, and responding that he is certainly thirsty. The crowd definitely appears thirsty to Trey. Eventually everyone dries up into dust. Then the building crumbles apart. Then the whole Earth. The Earth is one big cloud of dust floating into space. Trey then begins to get deep about our perception of reality. There’s something about “virtual reality static” and our entire existence being a holographic projection on a TV screen. I think at some point the dust of the venue reappears in a building the shape of Icculus? This is a far-out and entertaining narration, if nothing else.
“David Bowie” closes out this 90 minute first set after “Fly Famous Mockingbird” ends the narration. After some silly nonsense during the the song’s intro (three Secret Language signals!), there’s a good dissonant passage during the jam from 9:00-11:00. The band goes through several cycles of tension and release here. In another set this may have been the big highlight, but it’s a little overshadowed here by the excellent “Stash” and ridiculous “Forbin’s” narration. It’s a good “Bowie” in its own right though, and a solid ending to the set. The first few songs are a little unremarkable, but from “Fluffhead” onwards this is an interesting, engaging set that I was fully on board with.
“We’ll be right back, please don’t go away!”
“Axilla” opens set 2. They play the song at a fierce tempo but barely hold it together; Fishman seems to lose the beat at the very beginning of the song. “Poor Heart” takes slot number two before a big bust-out of “Caravan,” last played July 1991. This is my first time listening to the song. On first impression it’s a fun song with a good solo (jam?) that injected energy into the set. I hope to hear it again! A solid “Punch You in the Eye” rounds out the opening round of songs.
“Tweezer” brings the promise of improvisation to the set more than any song played thus far. The jam gets started at 4:30, and by 5:30 Trey enters into a rocking theme that the band builds on over the next several minutes. Dissonance is introduced at 6:20. There’s a “Caravan” tease as the jam moves towards a peak. Instead of ending in a blaze of glory, however, the jam rather abruptly breaks down shortly after 9:00. Initially, changing directions seems to kill the momentum. A sparse, jazzy groove develops, however, which evolves into a sort of alternative composed ending that I greatly enjoyed. This groove slowly quiets down and slows tempo, making for a mellow end to the song. Not the tour’s greatest “Tweezer,” but an entertaining one that I liked.
“Glide” serves the role that “Paul and Silas” filled in the first set, providing a bridge between two more ambitious songs. “You Enjoy Myself” is the last big song of the evening. Page’s solo starts around 8:20 and is fun tonight, Trey takes over around 11:00. There’s a full-band “Owner of a Lonely Heart” jam at 13:00, with further teases later on as well. The end of Trey’s solo around 14:00 is very high energy. The bass and drums segment starts at 14:00, and the vocal jam at 16:00. There’s nothing too crazy about this “YEM,” but each part is executed well, the “Owner of a Lonely Heart” teases are fun, and it’s high-energy. The song works as a nice capstone to the evening as the last piece of serious music.
The Henrietta segment (decidedly unserious) is up next, and features Fish singing “Cracklin’ Rosie.” “Tweezer Reprise” is the last song of the set and is still being played super quickly; this version clocks in at 2:51. “Carolina” and “Fire” are tonight’s encore choices. Overall, this is a very good show. The first set starts off slow but picks up by the halfway mark, delivering another excellent “Stash,” a weird “Forbin’s” narration, and other solid moments. The second set has a fun bust-out of “Caravan,” and solid, high-energy readings of “Tweezer” and “You Enjoy Myself.” Individually none of these moments are too jaw dropping (outside the “Stash,” at least), but together they form a sum greater than their parts.
After tonight’s show, Phish takes a few days off tour before regrouping in the midwest. Phish.com states that
“After [the 4/5/93 show], the band flew back East to perform at the Boston Music Awards on 4/7/93 where they won the award for Best Debut Album on a Major Label for “A Picture of Nectar”.
There’s something ironic about the band receiving an award for A Picture of Nectar while months into a tour that ostensibly is in support of Rift. Setlist watches will note, however, that most songs from Nectar are still in heavy rotation: Cavern, Tweezer, Stash, Guelah Papyrus, Llama, The Landlady, Glide, Chalk Dust Toture, Tweezer Reprise, and Poor Heart. That leaves six songs not on heavy rotation: Eliza, Manteca, Magilla, The Mango Song, Catapult, and Faht. “Eliza,” “The Mango Song,” and “Faht” are the only of the sixteen Nectar songs to not yet be played on this tour. All 15 Rift songs have been performed, most on heavy rotation as well. If you find this interesting, wait for the stat breakdowns I have planned for when I actually finish listening to this tour!
Phish takes three nights off after performing this Seattle show. That “break” is a flight to Boston for an award and then a flight to Minneapolis, where they resume tour on the 9th. That doesn’t exactly sound like a relaxing three days off, and after 2 straight months of heavy touring they could use some R&R, but the band seems to be drawing from an infinite supply of energy and motivation. So with that in mind, you’ll hear from me again on the 9th…
- Show rating: 4/5
- Highlights: “Stash,” “Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird,” “David Bowie,” “Caravan,” “Tweezer,” “You Enjoy Myself”
- Phish.net setlist
- First set length: 93 mins.
- Second set length: 75 mins.
- This is the first and last time Phish performed at the HUB Ballroom.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Caravan,” returning after a two hundred and twenty-four show absence (7/23/91).
- The best represented studio album is A Picture of Nectar (6 songs).